At the end of the summer, I heard that my friend Katherine Moore was feeling uncertain about where she was in her career.  So I asked her if she’d like to come teach with me at my music school.  She turned right around and asked if I had plans to expand the school into something much bigger.

 

I immediately said, “No.”  I was terrified by that idea!  I had my little school and it was safe and secure, and I wasn’t interested in taking risks.

 

But when I thought about what she said, her reasons for expanding made sense, and my own reasons for not expanding didn’t.  So I took a deep breath, turned around and told her, “Yes.”  Since then, I’ve discovered some surprising things about working with someone else.

 

Collaboration is a lot like being on a little boat in the middle of the ocean with a group of people.  Your good and bad choices about food, water and where you drill a hole will affect everyone.  While it can be inconvenient making group decisions, it can also produce better results.

 

The rock and jazz bands I love are larger-than-life examples of this.  The energy between the band members, producers, and roadies produces huge reinforced waves of accomplishment.  And when the waves cancel out or reinforce in the other direction, it can be truly disastrous.

 

I’ve always wanted to keep control over what I did, how I presented myself, how I made my way.  I’m pretty good at doing things by myself.  And yet, in this collaboration, I’m finding out that I’m personally better when I’m working with my partner!

 

There are the obvious things:  splitting the work up, so no one has to do everything.  Prioritizing of talents so that she does her best work and I do mine.  But there are other benefits I hadn’t foreseen.

 

I’m motivated to work harder on my end, not only because my partner is counting on me, but because I’m eager to get her feedback!  I’m also encouraged by the rapid progress we’re making, and that fuels my desire to work harder.  I never anticipated this windfall of excitement and optimism.

 

How could I?  I’ve always gone it alone.  Even when I knew collaboration could produce better results.

 

Will our business satisfy our expectations?  I don’t know.  Nor do I know how we will get through the challenges that await us.

 

But I believe if I continue to work on myself and make sure that I am a good partner, we will be all right.  There’s plenty to learn about working together, and about managing both success and failure.  What kind of collaborator are you, and can you offer me any advice?

 

Adam Cole is an author, educator and performer.  To view more of Adam's work, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net

 

Comments

Darcy January 09, 2018 @02:59 pm
 

Congratulations on your new endeavors!! This is so exciting. I applaud you for taking the risk and moving into uncharted territory! BTW, I love your new blog color scheme; very Prince-inspired (I'm a HUGE Prince fan, so that's a major compliment), and a lot easier to read! Thank you for that! :) XO

Jason January 08, 2018 @07:55 pm
 

HNY btw. It's a biggie, this issue. When you're starting out, you often have to do everything yourself - eg you don't take a gig, you make a gig. You don't hire staff. You can't, so you get to know a bit about accountancy, PR, design etc and get by. You can actually get to be very good at a lot of things, but you'll really punish yourself by continuing to take everything on and also, no matter how good you are, the way you do things will always be just that. Total solo projects (musical or otherwise) often feel a bit... stale. When you learn to collaborate (and in a way it is a skill that you actually have to learn), you have more resources to focus on your own strengths and let other people do the same - eg you record an original tune and it doesn't sounds like what you had in your head. You're disappointed for a while. Then you step back and listen, and realise that others have added things to it that wouldn't have occurred to you. Certainly not so stale anymore. Let's say the whole show is ultimately your baby. Delegation (another skill) takes judgement and above all trust, and trust builds relationships in many ways, far beyond the obvious. You certainly have to give others a chance to contribute. A lot of the time, they'll surprise you. Sometimes, they'll do a job that's fine, just not the way you'd have done it. That's okay. You can't exist in a vacuum, and definitely not in a field like music. Find and cultivate collaborators you respect and let them in.

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